Marianne Ferlisi Jordan

Marianne Ferlisi Jordan
Marianne Ferlisi’s First Holy Communion

Jordan_01Marianne Jordan, 76, has always lived in the St. Nicholas area because of its proximity to Assumption Catholic, her family’s church, and its school. In the 1970s her three children could walk from their home on Tiber Street to Assumption Catholic elementary and middle school. Later they attended Bishop Kenny High School. Jordan takes great joy in her growing family of eight grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and two more on the way.

Jordan_03Christmas Eve always brought Jordan’s big extended Italian family together at her home and she remembers the cooking went on for days before. They never missed the midnight Mass at Assumption.

“I’m from a family of great cooks. Italians traditionally have seafood at Christmas. My grandmother Marietta and my mother Josephine would lightly bread, then pan-fry smelt fish that Grandfather Nick had shipped to us from the New York fish markets. They were small, cooked with heads on and absolutely delicious. I haven’t been able to find them here,” she said. “My mother always made seafood gumbo and her Italian Pecan Nut Cake from scratch.”

On Christmas day, after her children opened their gifts, Jordan and the whole clan would again gather together, but at her parents’ home on Vale Orchard Road in San Marco. Frederick Angelo and Josephine “Josie” Ferlisi always served turkey, ham, sausage and oyster dressing.

“St. Nicholas and Tiber Street were a wonderful family community. I was divorced at the time I lived there, but in 1975 I met Ray Jordan and we were married. In 1976, the day after Thanksgiving, we moved just a few streets over to a larger family home on Nicholson Road,” she said.

Marianne Jordan, center, with her parents Frederick Angelo and Josephine Ferlisi

Marianne Jordan, center, with her parents Frederick Angelo and Josephine Ferlisi

Jordan first moved to Jacksonville in 1960 after her father Frederick Angelo Ferlisi opened his marine supply business, Industrial Warehouse, on Bay Street next door to Maxwell House Coffee. The company thrived across from the shipyards and Jordan worked at their Talleyrand office as bookkeeper for her father until 1965.

Health problems kept Jordan in and out of St. Vincent’s Hospital frequently. By the time her health improved, Jordan felt so inspired by the care she received from the nurses and doctors there, she decided to pursue a career in nursing.

“The medical staff was so caring I could not believe how hard they worked and how compassionate they were despite their long hours in the hospital,” she said. “I decided to go into nursing. I finished my RN training at the old Duval Medical Center on Jefferson Street and worked at St. Vincent’s Hospital from 1968-1974. Then I moved to Shands Hospital and worked there from 1974 until I retired in 1997,” she said.

Jordan first began working as a volunteer in 1989 helping the needy and visiting those in nursing homes through Assumption Catholic’s St. Vincent DePaul Mission. She collected clothing and organized food donations for families in need. She has tremendous compassion for those with special needs who are elderly, poor or in nursing homes or who have no family in the area. Jordan is also concerned about the growing number of grandparents raising their grandchildren, who need a lot of help.

“There is such a need for younger volunteers. Many of us are getting older and need to be replaced,” she said.

Jordan loves going to Disney World in Orlando with her grandchildren and traveling to see family in between outings with close friends. She is an amateur expert in the history of local shrimping and marine industries. Her recounting of her grandfather’s Sicilian heritage, immigration from Italy through Ellis Island and the Poli and Ferlisi families’ local history are detailed and fascinating.

“My grandfather, Nazzareno “Nick” Poli, met and married my grandmother Marietta when he arrived in New York. They moved to St. Augustine with their two children, my mother Josephine “Josie” and their son Dominic. Nick bought a shrimp boat and went out every day to shrimp in the Atlantic Ocean. Dominic joined his father and in 1944 they opened a successful St. Augustine marine supply company still in business on Riberia Street, Marine Supply & Oil Company,” she said.

Her father, Frederick Angelo Ferlisi, traveled to St. Augustine from his home in Alabama to accept a job hauling blocks of ice on the back seat of his Model T from an ice plant on Riberia Street down to the fishing docks. That’s where he met Nick Poli, who invited him home for a real Italian dinner and introduced him to his daughter Josephine.

“That’s how my parents met and married in 1937. My father began shrimping and working in the marine business with Grandfather Nick and Uncle Dominic and then opened his business in Jacksonville,” Jordan said. “The Poli and Ferlisi families are forever part of the history of the shrimping and marine business in St. Augustine and Jacksonville, something we are very proud of.”

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